|St Peter and St Paul's Churchyard||Barking & Dagenham|
St Peter and St Paul's parish church dates back to the early C13th and was in the heart of Dagenham Village, one of the earliest Saxon settlements in Essex. The churchyard was originally c.1 acre but was extended to the south in the C19th. It was in use for burials until the 1990s, and has numerous tombs, including twenty dating from the C17th. The area around the church is neatly tended, while the area beyond is in a more natural state as the churchyard has been maintained for wildlife since the 1990s.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2002
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St Peter and St Paul's Churchyard, November 1999. Photo: S Williams
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The old parish church of Dagenham Village, St Peter and St Paul’s Church, and its churchyard date back to the early C13th, although all that remain of the medieval building are the C13th Chancel and C15th north chapel. Inside the church is an altar tomb to Sir Thomas Urswyck (d.1479), Lord of the Manor of Marks and Baron of the Exchequer, who was instrumental in Edward IV's accession to the throne. After the collapse of the tower in 1800, which also destroyed the nave and south aisle, the church was largely rebuilt in 1800-1805 by the architect William Mason in Strawberry Hill Gothic style, including a spire, which was later removed in 1921. The graveyard was probably in use for over 800 years, and in 1904 Rev J P Shawcross estimated that over 11,000 burials had taken place.
The churchyard was still in use in the 1950s but closed to burials in the 1990s, when the Council became responsible for its maintenance. It was decided to manage it as a nature reserve and since 1997 the churchyard has been maintained by the London Wildlife Trust. The area nearest the church is more formally kept, with the area beyond this wilder, with meadows, long grass and trees around the gravestones. The Church and nearby Vicarage, built in 1665 with a large garden, and the C15th Cross Keys pub are all that remain of Dagenham Village, one of the earliest Saxon settlements in Essex. The pub was originally the house of the Comyns family, tanners by trade, who founded almshouses nearby in the C18th which have since been demolished. It became a pub in 1680, in 1708 was called the Queen's Head, and then in the C19th became the Cross Keys.
Among the monuments in the churchyard is an obelisk to police constable George Clark who was murdered on 29 or 30 June 1846, his murderers never brought to justice despite an investigation that lasted into the late 1850s. The former Archibishop of Canterbury, George Carey, lived in the area and his parents are buried in here.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993) p 226, 785; 'Book of Dagenham' pp95-97; Arthur Mee 'The King's England: London North of the Thames except the City and Westminster' (Hodder & Stoughton, 1972); Sue Curtis, 'Dagenham and Rainham Past' (Phillimore, 2000)